The nine defenders Manchester United did not sign under Jose Mourinho – Manchester Evening News

Jose Mourinho’s return will add extra spice to next month’s meeting between Manchester United and Tottenham at Old Trafford.

The two teams have endured difficult starts to the campaign, but while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has presided over a recent upturn in form Mauricio Pochettino’s failure to inspire a similar revival cost him his job.

Spurs have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions and their last success in the Premier League came at the end of September. Chairman Daniel Levy decided to dismiss Pochettino last week.

Tottenham have three games between now and their December 4 trip to Old Trafford, so Solskjaer will have an indication of what kind of effect Mourinho has had by the time they shake hands in front of the south stand.

 

Solskjaer still has problems to address from the Mourinho era, problems that ironically emerged around the time the Portuguese signed a new contract in January 2018. Mourinho felt Ed Woodward’s failure to provide him with a central defensive signing last summer undermined him more than any other issue.

Mourinho said United lacked the technical quality required to build attacks from defence after a Champions League draw with Valencia two months before his sacking, and bemoaned a lack of options in that position after the chaotic early December draw with Southampton.

Alderweireld will work with Mourinho and Maguire eventually joined United
Alderweireld will work with Mourinho and Maguire eventually joined United

United signed Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant during Mourinho’s final summer in charge and there was buck-passing in the Old Trafford hierarchy over the central defensive issue. United sources claimed Mourinho only asked for a defender in June, something he privately disputes.

Eric Bailly had regressed following his impressive 2016-17 debut campaign, Victor Lindelof had flopped and Phil Jones cost United in the FA Cup final.

Mourinho’s top tier of targets included Milan Skriniar of Inter Milan, the Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Leicester’s Harry Maguire. Each player was valued at a minimum of £75million and United deemed those players’ valuations to be exorbitant. United paid £80m for Maguire in August after their worst top-flight defensive campaign in 40 years.

 

Toby Alderweireld, who Mourinho will now work with at Tottenham, was deemed unattainable by the Portuguese since Woodward was reluctant to deal with the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. Levy had enquired about Anthony Martial.

Jerome Boateng was identified as a back-up option but United sources derided his injury record and noted they had previously signed two injury-prone players from Bayern Munich in Owen Hargreaves and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Diego Godin was targeted as the transfer deadline loomed but opted to see out his contract at Atletico Madrid before moving to Inter Milan this year.

Potential players Ruben Dias and Nikola Milenkovic, of Benfica and Fiorentina, were monitored but Mourinho’s preference was for an experienced defender. Matthijs de Ligt was under consideration before his breakthrough season at Ajax but head of global scouting Marcel Bout expressed reservations over the his physique.

De Ligt moved to Juventus for £67.8m earlier this year.

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